Celebrity chef Tim Love, who competed on the hit show Iron Chef and later hosted CNBC’s Restaurant Startup, knew he wanted to expand when he opened his first concept, Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, in Fort Worth’s Historic Stockyards in 2000. “I felt like two restaurants cost money, three restaurants make money,” he says.
Ever filled with ideas, Love’s empire now includes more than 14 venues in Fort Worth, Denton, and Knoxville, Tennessee, ranging from Mule Alley newcomer Ático, a Spanish tapas concept, to Stockyards staple Elephant Saloon. His latest addition? A riverside micro resort called Hotel Otto, with rooms made of shipping containers.
Love launched Gemelle, an Italian restaurant named for his twin daughters, along the west fork of the Trinity River in 2019. Excess riverfront land provided an opportunity to test out an idea he’d been stewing on. “I’ve had this in my head to do something with shipping containers for a long time,” he says. “And the reality of it is, I can build a hotel for much cheaper than anybody else because I can start with the restaurants.” Thus, Hotel Otto, which means eight in Italian and reflects the number of shipping container resort rooms, was born.
“The reality of it is, I can build a hotel for much cheaper than anybody else.”Tim Love
The property opened in July. It features an Aperol bar also open to restaurant guests, a pool made from a shipping container, and a 10,000-square-foot garden, from which many of Gemelle’s ingredients and cocktail garnishes are grown. Each room is decked out with Hermès linens, a full bath, and a bar. A winding outdoor staircase takes guests to the top of each unit, where Love has created space to enjoy a late-night cocktail or morning coffee with river views. When I visited, Love was toying with the idea of turning a ninth container into a small café for resort guests.
The entrepreneur’s immediate plans are to open three new restaurants at Mule Alley in the Fort Worth Stockyards—a Mexican concept called Paloma Suerte, a small (50-seat) American Italian restaurant, and another large concept whose details are still under wraps—in late 2021 and early 2022. But he’s also eyeing an expansion of his resorts.
“I can take this footprint, and I can get a piece of land, and I can build it in literally 12 weeks,” Love says.